Stacey Jones out of first NRL match - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Stacey Jones out of first NRL match

By Tamara McLean 05/03/2009 04:34:24 PM Comments (0)

Veteran star Stacey Jones has all but ruled himself out of the Warriors' opening NRL clash of the season against Parramatta.

The Kiwi team will likely hit the field in Auckland Saturday week without Jones, whose niggling calf injury also kept him from playing the last of the team's trial matches.

"It's pretty frustrating, pretty disappointing that I won't be playing, but that's the way it goes," a despondent Jones said after a training session on Thursday.

"As a whole though, the team is looking great. I'll just have to sit it out."

The Warriors have had a strong pre-season start, with a clean-sweep of wins in their three build-up matches ahead of the 2009 NRL season.

Coach Ivan Cleary said the likely loss of Jones, 32, would be felt on the field, but injury was par for the course with older players.

"It's something we're always a little bit wary of with Stacey, having not played for a while," Cleary said.

"He's getting on a bit, but it's something we're going to have to keep managing."

The coach is keeping mum on his March 14 line-up but it's most likely that top-form Nathan Fien, a Kiwi trailblazer in last year's World Cup, will snatch the coveted No.7 jersey while former Bronco Joel Moon will play five-eighth.

The arrival of Moon has forced former five-eighth Michael Witt to effectively search for a new home after he was overlooked for all of the Warriors' trial matches.

Reigning minor premiers Melbourne loom as one potential home after the Storm sacked Arana Taumata in the offseason.

However such a move for Witt would require a significant pay cut.

Cleary meanwhile said he's heartened by the form shown to date, and the relative lack of injuries, and says his one wish now is to break a Warriors trend and get off to a strong start.

"I'd love to start fast," he said.

"It would be nice to get halfway through the year and not be looking from the bottom up."

He said he was heartened to see Australian bookmakers TAB Sportsbet rate the team equal-third favourites to win the competition.

"The general feeling is we've got a little more respect, especially over the ditch," the coach said.

But skipper Steve Price said it's what happens next that really counts.

"If what we've done so far excites them, that's great but I hope that what we're doing during the season excites them more."

The Warriors will play the Parramatta Eels at Mt Smart Stadium on March 14, followed by round two against the Manly Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval on March 22.

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